Let Me Introduce Myself: Faculty, Staff, and Student Profiles for Community-building and Careers

Matt Ryan and Mark Heiman, of Carlton College , said officials at their school had three goals when it came to building community among their faculty, staff and students. They were:

  1. We’d like faulty to share their accomplishments with the world
  2. We’d like staff to be able to learn about each others accomplishments
  3. We’d like students to learn to talk about their skills and experiences with potential employers.

Ryan and Heiman said these three requests led to a decision to tackle a build a large profile project which they broke into chunks.

Faculty profiles: The project included the faculty and the dean’s office. From that conversation, wire frames were built and taken back to the faculty for review. The design was developed and then tested and reviewed. The project was then launched and was successful.

Each page is a hybrid of information from the directory, the course schedule and information directly from the faculty. The information is universally structured to make sure at all faculty have at least a partially populated profile no matter if they actively submit information or not. The template faculty see is already populated with the pulled in information, so they can tweak or add as they wish. Faculty profiles are accessible through the academic page and the campus directory.

The guiding design principles? 1) Ask explicit questions, but not too many or too many at once. 2) Make as many things as possible optional.

Staff Profiles: The staff profiles were adapted from the faculty profile templates. A few fields were tweaked and it launched. There were a few political problems: per Carlton’s HR dept., resumes are not Vitas. Personal interests were a concern to list. There were issues between what someone does and what their job description is. After a few tweaks, the profiles were launched again and everyone was happy.

Student Profiles: Carlton came out with a new strategic plan with a focus on student outcomes. The Career Center was trying to find ways to meet this new goal. A long conversation was held with the career center to try and figure out the best strategy.
To build the student profile, Carlton tweaked the profile template, took several fields out, put some more career related fields in and let a group of students look at it. Student focus groups had an opportunity to see the profiles and help build a final version. The approach changed once the students had their say.

Student profiles are difficult because of all of the social networks already there. How do you make a profile that is different? Find the niche that makes sense for you and your users.
The student profiles ended up being very much Carlton focused, who’s studied abroad where, what classes have students taken, what are others interested in. A connections tab was added to help students filter results to find people with alike interests, including faculty and staff.
The product isn’t the profile, it’s the connections.

All three profiles have been used and are the number of users is increasing as time goes on.

Key lessons:
There is value between the cracks of the social media behemoths.
Focus groups and testing are key.
What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in.
Keep asking: What is the product and that is the goal?
Address the goals of the actual users.
You can do this!